Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Come to the Stable

By Gary T. Czerwinski

The United States finally came clean and admitted what most of us already knew: we are in a recession. Venice, Italy wishes it were in a recession, a recession of water, that is. It is inundated with the highest tides ever recorded. Our presidential election is over. The world turns and events go on.

This is one of the bleakest of holiday shopping seasons. Economists call it “deflation” because the discounts are so steep retailers aren’t making any money. And since most of what is selling isn’t made in the United States, it really doesn’t do us any good. To be honest, it’s not doing China much good, either. They are laying people off and the amount of container shipping across the oceans has decreased to a trickle.

I recently received an e-mail chronicling the number of big-name retail stores that will either shut their doors for good or begin closing outlets across the country. The numbers are staggering. Even more staggering will be the number of people who will lose their jobs.

Here’s a sampling:
  • Ann Taylor closing 117 stores.
  • The Bombay Company closed all 384 U.S. stores.
  • Charming Shoppes chain closed 150 outlets.
  • Circuit City filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November 2008 and is closing 155 stores across the U.S.
  • CompUSA closed most of its 103 outlets.
  • Dillard's closed 21 outlets in 2008 and said it expects more store closures in 2009.
  • The Disney Store closed 98 outlets.
  • Eddie Bauer closed 29 outlets
  • Ethan Allen closed 12 retail design centers and two service centers in 2008.
  • The Foot Locker closed 274 outlets in 2007 and another 60 in the first quarter of 2008. More are likely.
  • Whitehall Jewelers began liquidating and closing all 373 of its stores.
  • The Home Depot announced in May 2008 that it would be closing 15 underperforming outlets.
  • Kirkland's is expecting to close 130 outlets by the middle of 2009.
  • Levitz Furniture: Good-bye.
  • Macy's closed 11 outlets in 2008.
  • Sharper Image began closing and liquidating all 184 of its outlets in June 2008.
  • Sprint will be closing 125 of its 1,400 retail outlets.
  • The Wickes Furniture chain began liquidating merchandise at locations nationwide in February 2008.
With the current economic forecast, expect more to follow. And this list doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of really small businesses. In 2007, 637,100 new businesses were created, 560,300 businesses closed and 28,322 filed for bankruptcy.

In my own lakeshore area where tourism is king, it’s not unusual to see stores open and then close within a few years. But we are now witnessing well-established businesses closing their doors for good. Mine included.

I’m always somewhat aghast when I walk into these big-box stores. Merchandise piled to the ceiling. A lot of it is the same stuff in other stores. The poet’s line “earth cry mercy” always pops into my head. How many more natural resources can we rape from our planet to produce all this … junk? Has it really been worth it?

Many families are planning more simplified Christmas celebrations. At last! Fewer gifts. More handmade, personal items. Less is more!

With so many people facing home foreclosures, becoming homeless and jobless, even living in cars, the meaning of “born in a manger” might just rekindle a divine and somber simplicity we seem to have forgotten.


Unknown said...

So sad to hear about your store closing. But you're right, many are simply disappearing...but so are the full time jobs. The factory job my husband has had for over 25 years has been downsided to a 36 to 40 hour a week job! (No overtime to get us through anymore!) You are in my thoughts with so many others.

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